Low bar squat is an exercise or rather a technique with barbell squats. This variation requires you to place the barbell on the upper back muscles, and it sits near the deltoids and upper part of the trapezius muscles. This lower placement shifts the center of gravity slightly backward compared to a high bar squat.
The idea is to ensure that your weight is balanced throughout the feet while maintaining a slight emphasis on the heels. That helps engage the posterior chain and maintain stability.
How to do a low bar squat?
- Approach the barbell, and position it on your upper back, below the spine of the scapula.
- Grab the barbell with a grip wider than shoulder-width.
- Unrack the bar by standing up, keeping the chest lifted and back tight.
- Take a step back, and position your feet shoulder-width apart or slightly wider, with toes slightly angled outward.
- While maintaining a tight core, initiate the squat by pushing your hips back and bending the knees.
- Descend till the hips are below parallel or as low as your flexibility allows.
- Push through your heels; extend your hips, and return to the starting position.
Thing to keep in mind about low bar squat form
Take a grip wider than shoulder-width apart on the bar for the low bar squat. This wide grip helps create a stable shelf for the barbell to rest on.
Upper body position
Set your upper back tight by squeezing the shoulder blades together. This creates a shelf of muscle for the barbell to rest on and helps maintain stability during the lift. Keep your chest lifted and torso upright throughout the movement.
Hip drive and depth
As you descend, focus on driving your hips back to maintain a balance between knee and hip flexion. Aim to reach at least parallel depth, where your hips are in line with or slightly below the knees. Going lower is a matter of personal preference and mobility, but it's not necessary for everyone.
Drive and lockout
When you come back to the starting position, aim to push through using your heels. That helps with engaging the primary lower body muscle groups like the leg muscles, glutes and lower back. The final position should be the hips driven forward to ensure lockout while keeping the hips and knees extended.
Maintain a tight core, and breathe out as you drive up from the bottom position. Inhale at the top before initiating the next repetition.
Which muscles are worked during the low bar squat?
The low bar squat primarily targets the following muscles:
Quadriceps are the biggest muscle group that makes up the front of the thighs. It helps with extending the knee when you push through the heels during the movement. This muscle group is primarily engaged during the exercise.
The glutes are made up of three muscle groups, and the entire muscle is engaged during the exercise. The muscles work together to assist with hip extension, which is important when you’re performing the ascent phase of the exercise.
The hamstrings, located at the back of the thighs, work as synergists with the glutes during the low bar squat. They assist in hip extension and help stabilize the knees during the descent.
The erector spinae muscles, which run along the spine, are engaged to maintain an upright torso throughout the squat. They play a significant role in spinal stabilization and contribute to the overall strength of the back during the movement.
The adductor muscles of the inner thighs help stabilize the hips during the squat. Although their involvement is relatively smaller compared to the quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings, they still contribute to the overall stability of the movement.
The core muscles like the obliques or the abdominals are engaged for better stability and posture. A strong core is essential for maintaining proper form and preventing any potential spinal injuries.
A strong core is essential for maintaining proper form and preventing any potential spinal injuries.
Other muscles, like the calves (gastrocnemius and soleus), upper back muscles (trapezius and rhomboids) and muscles of the upper body (deltoids and triceps), are also involved to some extent to maintain stability and support the movement.
However, the primary emphasis of the low bar squat is on the lower body muscles mentioned above.